Thursday, June 6, 2019

What's in a Name?

Image result for roseAccording to William Shakespeare  "That which we call a rose. 
By any other name would smell as sweet".  (Said by Romeo, to Juliet)  

In other words, the specific name doesn't matter.

But I think perhaps Will missed the boat on this one.  (Before you start lambasting me in the comments, I realize that Shakespeare was just trying to make a point.... and now, so am I!)  

At first blush, it feels like most people don't have a choice in their name.  Parents choose a name when a child is born, it goes on the birth certificate, and there you go. 

But that's not really quite accurate.

I know someone who, as a child, decided she didn't like her first name (which was a perfectly fine name), and insisted that everyone call her by her middle name.  And she was amazingly adept at refusing to respond - or even react - if someone called her by her first name.  At some point, she reverted back to her first name.  I'm not sure about the reasoning behind her initial decision to change, or the decision to change back.  But the point is, she changed her name.

Beyond that, most of us are able to choose whether to use our formal name, or a shortened/modified nickname.  When we introduce ourselves to someone, we're choosing which name we want them to use. When I meet somebody who tells me their name is John, or Johnny, or Jack, I make some immediate assumptions about what sort of person they are.  Those assumptions might be wrong, they might be right... but I make those assumptions nonetheless, based on the name they give me.

Yet all of these are examples of first names.  What about last names?

Here's where I think it's interesting how people react.  For centuries, when a couple married, the woman 'lost' her last name and took on her new husband's last name.  Back in the 1970's and '80's, there was something of a trend was for the woman to put a hyphen after her last name, and add her husband's name.  A nice compromise, you might think, particularly where some husbands would change their last name to the new hybrid version. But it still meant that the woman (and man, if he joined in) 'lost' her last name.  

And then there were the variations of shifting your last name to your middle name, and taking on your husband's last name.  Or even just adding on the husband's last name so that now the woman had 4 names.  Except that the actual last name... was still her husband's last name.

And these variations were far from the norm.  In a 2009 study of government data, only 6% of women who married did something "unconventional", which included keeping their own name, hyphenating, and tacking on his last name at the end.  94% of women who married got rid of their own last name, and took their husband's last name.

Big deal, you say.  She still has her first name.  

And that's precisely what a friend told me the other day.  A male friend.  A male friend who married, and kept his own last name.

And that's when I realized that Shakespeare's Romeo didn't get it, and generally speaking, many men don't get it.  

Your name is your identity.  Men might mentally divide their lives into 'before I got married' and 'after I got married'.  And of course women make this same division.  But for women - or at least women who change their names...  they also think of themselves as "when I was {maiden name}", and "when I was {married name}".   When we meet someone we knew long ago, we don't say "oh, you knew me when I was known as {maiden name}"... rather, we say "oh, you knew me when I was {maiden name}."

Your name isn't just what others call you, your name is your identity. Not your first name, but your entire name.  Change that name, and you change your identity.

Romeo was right that a rose would smell as sweet if we called it something different.  But my name - my full name - is who I am.  And of course I'd be drinking typhoo tea, no matter what they called it.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Why I hate insurance companies

Be forewarned:  This is not a typical Teapot Musing.  This is a major rant about health insurance companies, specifically Blue Cross Blue Shield.

For a couple of decades, I have been using a drug  to manage my asthma.  My asthma is mild, but it's in need of control.  With the assistance and supervision of my primary care physician, I've gone from having bronchitis several times a year and frequently wheezing, to (knock on wood) going several years between bronchitis episodes, and rarely wheezing.  This is a good thing, a very good thing.

Recently, a generic became available for the drug I've been using (Advair).  And I considered that to also be a good thing.  Unfortunately, we recently changed insurance to Blue Cross Blue Shield.  And apparently, that was a bad thing.

You see, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield's policy on asthma medications, they will not approve Advair OR the new generic for Advair, until/unless the patient has first tried two other asthma medications.  EVEN IF the patient has been on Advair for some time, with good results.  EVEN THOUGH the other medications warn that it may take a bit of time for a patient to begin to feel the full benefit of the other medications.

So I began using the first of the other options.  And this was not a good thing.

I filed an appeal with Blue Cross Blue Shield  (see letter at the bottom of this post), and this evening my primary care physician called me to say she'd been notified by Blue Cross Blue Shield that 'they needed a more complete history' for me.  Mind you... the doctor's office had already submitted a complete history when they requested the authorization for the generic of Advair.  And they've done this many times before, for other patients and other drugs.  So it's not as if they don't know what they're doing.  Whatever the end result of this might be, I find it ridiculous that the group practice my doctor belongs to has to have a staff person whose job is to research and review patient histories and write up requests for authorization.  I find it ridiculous that Blue Cross Blue Shield's actions result in my doctor calling me at 5:30 on a Friday night, to report what she's doing to try to make this work... I know she works long days and she should have better things to do than jump through Blue Cross Blue Shield's hoops.

Yes, I realize some drugs can be outrageously expensive. Yes, I understand that Big-Pharma is partly to blame.  If Big-Pharma is the problem, then Blue Cross Blue Shield should focus their efforts in that direction.  Yes, I'm sure there are doctors out there who will prescribe anything, willy-nilly, without regard to whether there are other options.      If irresponsible doctors are the problem, then Blue Cross Blue Shield should require explanations of why a patient is on a specific drug... Oh wait, they do.  But this just feels too much like the blind application of  a policy, without regard or thought to a specific situation.  Which makes Blue Cross Blue Shield an irresponsible party to all of this.

I feel very fortunate to have a doctor willing to put in the time and effort to see this through.

In the meantime, this is why I hate insurance companies.
Sometimes, tea is not enough, you have to take other action.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

On Recommendations

You have to give some thought and considerations, before recommending a book to someone.  No matter how wonderful or amazing you might consider a book to be, there will still be some people who read it and think "Meh".. and there will  be others who might start it, but not finish it.. or might not even pick the book up at all. It's not just about the book, it's about the reader.

I read a lot of books, and I have a friend - essentially the same age, and the same profession - who also reads a lot of books.  We've tried to recommend books to each other.. and it nearly always fails. It took us awhile - and a lot of discarded books - to figure this out, but we've now come to terms with the fact that the Venn diagram of the books he likes, and the books I like, would have a very small overlap.  That overlap does indeed exist, but it's quite small.  So while we continue to tell each "I just finished a really good book", it's most often followed by "but you wouldn't like it."

On the other hand, I know someone else who reads a lot of books and we frequently recommend titles to each other, and 99% of the time those recommendations are spot on.  Maybe even 99.5%.  On a couple of occasions, we've actually recommended the same title to each other at the same time. We're not too far apart in age, but our professions and our lifestyles are very different from each other... yet our reading tastes are very closely aligned.

I have a young niece, and over the years, I've given her quite a number of books as gifts.  I received a phone call from her a few months ago....  "Aunt Laurie, I'm at the library, and they don't have the book I was going to get, so I thought I'd see if you had any recommendations."
I was delighted, of course... but there was also a lot of pressure.  We'd shifted from - "Here's a present for you,... Oh, thank you," to .. what do you recommend?  I began by telling her that I could only recommend something, if I knew what she liked.. and I asked her about the last few books I'd given her.  She was rather shy about admitting that she hadn't liked some of them... but I assured her that this was okay and it wouldn't hurt my feelings, and that knowing both her likes and dislikes would help me recommend something new.

And this, of course, is the important thing. There are a gazillion lists out there... with titles such as "25 Books to Read Before You Die",  "The Top 50 Greatest Fiction Books of All Time",  "The 10 Best New Books of 2018"... and many, many more. But unless you created the list, odds are high that you will disagree with at least one title on that list.
And this is okay.
It doesn't mean you're wrong or that the list is wrong, it just means that someone other than you prepared the list.

Having said that -- I thought I'd share some book titles with you.  I'm not suggesting you have to read these before you die, or that they're the greatest of all time, or even the greatest of this year.... and I'm not even suggesting that you will like them.  I'm merely saying that I liked them. If you haven't already read them, or looked at them and concluded you wouldn't like them... you might want to consider them -- or not.
"Sleeping Beauties", by Stephen King and Jonathan Hill.  I'm generally leery of collaborations; usually you can figure out who wrote which section, which means you start looking for those dividing lines.  But I like Stephen King, and I know Jonathan Hill is one of his sons, and I was curious to see how this collaboration would work.  There's no question that the very beginning of the book doesn't 'feel' like a King.. but nonetheless it made me want to read more.  And it wasn't very long before I forgot to try to discern who wrote what, because it was pretty darned seamless.  And it was a great story.  And if you want to find it, there is a lot of social commentary on our times and the book really makes you think.. but I think you could also ignore that and just enjoy the story if you wanted. A successful collaboration, a great read.
"An Easy Death", by Charlaine Harris.  I was  familiar with Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie is a cocktail waitress in Louisiana. She can read minds, and many of her friends are vampires and were-animals. Yes, it's brain-candy.. it's pretty mindless stuff, but it's entertaining.  So when I saw a title by Harris that I hadn't read, I decided I was in the mood for fluff and I grabbed it without reading the back jacket. "An Easy Death" is not part of the Stackhouse series. Instead, it's kind of a combination of Old West (think 'gunslingers and wagon trains') and wizards, with a nod to some czarist Russian history.  And it's good, it's really good.  I found myself thinking about the characters, days after I'd finished reading the book.  I was delighted to see that it appears this is a new series, with at least one more book planned.
"The Old Man", by Thomas Perry.  Thomas Perry has written a lot of books.. including the Jane Whitefield series and the Butcher Boy series, and he's also written a lot of stand-alone titles.  This one is a stand-alone.  The title character is not really that old ... well, he's my age. And he doesn't think of himself as an old man, although he notes that his daughter does. But don't mistake this book as a soft, warm, cuddly, character-study.  It's an adventure/spy/suspense book with lots of intense moments.. and a lot of the other characters underestimate the main character, partly because of his age.  Very well-written, my favorite Thomas Perry book by far. As I said, this is a stand-alone... but I wish Perry would follow up with another story with this character.

Are these my favorite books of all time? No, although they're pretty good.  Are they my favorites from this year?  Hmmm, not sure, but they are the three that popped into my head first. Am I recommending them?  Of course not, I don't know your reading likes/dislikes.  But you might want to take a look at them.  Am I drinking my favorite tea as I write this?  Of course I am.  But then, you already knew that.